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Junk food linked to mental disorders

Moms who eat junk food while pregnant are more likely to have kids with mental issues.

By Anne Hurley Aug 20, 2013 8:48PM

When my sister was pregnant with her second child, she craved dark chocolate and avocados -- and ate them, both by the pound, along with plenty of protein, leafy greens and prenatal vitamins. It turns out that by resisting more traditional junk foods during her pregnancy, she may have helped reduce the risk that her son might later develop mental issues.A new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry shows a strong link between those women who ate junk food during pregnancy and an increased risk of mental disorders and problems in their children. The researchers, from Deakin University in Australia as well as from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort project, studied pregnant women’s diets throughout pregnancy, and their children’s diets at 18 months and at 3 years old.

Moms also were asked to assess their children’s behavior and symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, and conduct or behavioral disorder.

The bottom line: Moms who consumed more junk food -- like sugary sodas, refined flour, and salty snacks -- had children with increased behavioral problems, including aggression, tantrums, and even depression and anxiety at very young ages and beyond.

“It is becoming even more clear that diet matters to mental health right across the age spectrum," said Felice Jacka, an associate professor at Deakin University. “The changes to our food systems, including the shift to more high-energy, low-nutrition foods developed and marketed by the processed food industry, have led to a massive increase in obesity-related illnesses right across the globe.”

And those obesity-related illnesses are being passed on to unborn children, and include mental-health issues that are severe and can last a child’s lifetime.

The researchers found that junk-food diets in pregnancy are tied to increased risk of dementia in children of the moms with the unhealthy diets.

It’s probably not going to hurt anyone, including your unborn child, if you curl up with some Ben & Jerry’s and pickles -- or dark chocolate and avocados. But the researchers suggest that eating a wide variety of healthy, unprocessed foods is the best diet of all during pregnancy -- for mom and baby alike.

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